ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq Security Forces announced on Friday the conclusion of the third phase of a military operation against remnants of the Islamic State in multiple areas within the provinces of Diyala and Nineveh provinces, dubbed, “Will of Victory.”
It was the latest effort to engage members of the extremist group after the military claimed success in clearing areas north and west of Baghdad in two previous military operations.
According to Iraq's Joint Operations Command, the campaign started on Aug. 5 as troops targeted areas located north of Miqdadiya district in Diyala province, north of Jalawla and Khanaqin, most of which are disputed territories between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government of Iraq.
“The campaign, which lasted two days, resulted in the elimination of 4 terrorists, the arrest of 18 wanted individuals, and the destruction of 12 tunnels and 24 hideouts used by terrorist groups.”
Friday's statement also listed that security forces “found and seized 42 IEDs, seven rockets, and the search and reconnaissance of 25 villages, which is approximately 1,700 square kilometers.” Both Iraqi and US-led coalition aircraft also participated, providing air support and gathering intelligence.
The operation comes amid reports of increasing Islamic State activity in Iraq's disputed territories.
A local Kurdish official recently charged that federal Iraqi security forces are “failing to provide security for the area and its people, and civilians are taking up arms to protect themselves in the disputed area.”
On Tuesday, the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s (IG) office released its latest report on “Operation Inherent Resolve,” the official name of the US-led military campaign against the Islamic State. The report highlights the increasing activity of the terrorist group in both Iraq and Syria.
“ISIS is able to operate as an insurgency in Iraq and Syria, in part because the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) remain unable to sustain long-term operations against ISIS militants,” the IG report states.
It also warns, “Despite losing its territorial ‘caliphate,’ the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq.”
On Wednesday, Iraq announced the arrest of a senior Islamic State member at the head of the jihadist group’s department in charge of “spoils-of-war.”
The man was identified as al-Makna Abu Shaher and was captured by federal police forces in the disputed province of Kirkuk, according to an Interior Ministry statement.
Baghdad declared military victory against the Islamic State in late 2017, but the group continues to launch insurgent attacks, ambushes, and kidnappings across much of the country. Officials from the Kurdistan Region and Iraq have repeatedly warned of a possible resurgence of the terrorist group.
Editing by John J. Catherine